Frontex, applying the latest systems to combat document forgery

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex, 2004) helps member states of the EU and associate countries of the Schengen Area to administer their exterior borders and contribute to harmonise border controls between European Union countries. The Agency facilitates cooperation between the border authorities of each EU country, offering technical support and experience.

According to the EU commission on the application of the action plan to strengthen the European Union response to travel documentation, a technical report has been being prepared since April 2018 about norms for inspection systems. To support this activity, Frontex is developing a methodology to assess and analyse the performance of document inspection systems.

A key achievement is the increase in operative support from the Centre of Excellence of Frontex against the falsifying of documents, in operation since February 2018. This centre sends personnel from Frontex to in situ operations on external borders, collaborates with the exchange of information regarding document forgery and expects to create a Forgery Office to provide permanent technical and operative support for the control of documents. Moreover, it manages the Group of Experts in Document Control, with the aim of coordinating the general support given to state members for the detection of forged documents, and work in close collaboration with the horizontal group of experts in forged documents, created within the framework in the EU 2018-2021 actions cycle to break up organised crime networks involved in trafficking false and forged documents. The Centre is completing a new proposal for a normalised alerts format.

Furthermore, regarding improvements to the gathering of data concerning phenomena related to the forging of documents, Frontex maintains the Network for the analysis of risks of document forgery in the European Union -EDF-RAN – and gathers information about identities and false documents detected on external borders and movements within the Schengen/EU area.

Concerning the promotion of training activities in new areas related to document forgery, Frontex, in association with the Centre of Identification of the Eindhoven Academy (Netherlands), developed a pilot course about the recognition of identity that includes references to the management of identity, the technology of microcircuits, biometrics and the means of detection of digital fraud.

The main task of the Centre of Excellence of Frontex is to support the fight against document forgery in joint operations. The Centre of Excellence of Frontex created a new proposal in 2018 concerning the creation of a normalised alert format. Now Frontex has developed a reference manual for border guards that contains images of passports, identity cards and visas, to help to determine if the document presented is genuine or not.

On 25th March 2019 some workshops called ‘Frontex Document Olympics’ took place with experts in documentation from all over Europe participating in the first Frontex Olympic Games. The Olympics involved finding the largest amount of forged documentation per minute: participating in a pair of scenarios, including the verification of travel documents in an airport and other types of support given to irregular immigrants (like birth or marriage certificates) at a public entry point.


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The Chicago police force uses computer algorithms to assess the risk of a threat

Could a computer predict violence? In Chicago, Illinois, an algorithm assesses everyone arrested by the police with a score of between 1 and 500. The process has been carried out for four years, and almost 400,000 Chicago citizens now have an official risk score for the police authorities.

This algorithm questioned by the law teacher of Columbia University, Andrew Guthrie Ferguson – the method has still not been made public – is part of a police strategy and may change street investigations. It may also mean a police-related big data in the US, depending on how it is perceived, whether it is an innovative focus for the reduction of violence or as an example of data-based social control.

In effect, the personalised threat score is shown automatically on police computer screens so that the officer can know the relative risk involved in stopping a suspect. The predictive score also who a proactive police intervention is aimed at. These interventions may range from a visit to a home carried out by police officers, to an extra police surveillance or a community meeting, and will transmit the same clear message: the police are watching you.

And while Chicago is at the forefront of predictive surveillance, it is not the only city. Other cities like New York and Los Angeles are thinking of a way to use the police-related big data to guide interventions involving risky individuals.

Predictive control based on people began in 2009 as an attempt to apply a public health focus on violence. The key is to identify predictive risk factors and try to resolve the underlying environmental causes. Chicago investigators developed an algorithm so that the police could give priority to those individuals with the highest risk score by analysing: past arrests for violent crime, weapon or narcotic-related crime, age when most recently arrested (the younger, the higher the score), incidents where the individual was the victim of an assault and criminal activity trend (whether this is increasing or decreasing). A computer then classifies the variables and writes a relative threat score to determine the probability of firearm use.

The police state that the guidance system points out the high percentage of victims of gunshots that could be predicted with precision. Critics have pointed out that the objective is excessive and ineffective, including dozens of thousands of people with high scores, but with no previous record of arrest for violent crime.

It is thought to be worrying that the threat score affects the equity of interaction between the police and people in the street. High-risk scores guide strategies to stop violence, which influence police contacts and those under closest surveillance. But threat scores also distort everyday police decisions about the use of force and reasonable suspicion. After all, once the police has the information that a person has a high threat score, this knowledge will increase crime-related suspicion and will increase the perceived danger, causing more frequent and aggressive interactions with people that the algorithm considers to be “high risk”.

This bias can also jeopardise the system. As described by the investigation by the Division of Civil Rights of the Department of Justice in 2017 of the Chicago Police Department, racial discrimination patterns continue to be a real problem. While one could expect the justice algorithm to avoid human bias, the reality is that these insertions (especially arrests) are affected by discretional decisions by all police officers as they patrol or investigate the suspect of a crime. Therefore, although the mathematics of big data may be “objective”, entries are not exempt of human bias, thereby distorting the final results.

Related links


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European Union: improvements in urban security for the disabled

Europe is an urban continent. Four out of every five people live in a city. For those 80 million European citizens that have some kind of disability going to the city can be very complicated. People with disabilities and reduced mobility have the right to move independently; therefore, is there a way to design cities so that they can be more accessible to all?

WheelchairThe latest strategy published by the European Union was aimed at railway passengers. Members of the European Parliament have revealed that they wish to reinforce the rights of railway passengers all over the European territory. The members of parliament consider that there ought be greater financial compensation if there are delays and they also request more assistance for disabled people. All European railway companies should guarantee free assistance for people with a disability or reduced mobility. They should also guarantee total compensation for loss of or damage to mobility equipment, and for loss of or damage to guide animals.

In 2011, Europe was able to enjoy the first integrated rights of passengers that covered all means of transport. To better consolidate these rights, the European Commission reviewed them in September of the same year. The organ defined 10 passenger rights: related to non-discrimination, accessibility, information, assistance, compensation, responsibility; and their application to all forms of transport. Regarding the pathway to creating a sole transport area in Europe, the Commission stressed the need for quality systems, both accessible and secure, for all transport services, as a way to promote public transport. It also insisted on the need to make transport measures more accessible for the elderly and people with a disability or reduced mobility.

Moreover, the European Union is working to achieve a common legislation in all member states to be able to cover the basic needs of disabled people whatever European country they are in. For example, if a person with a recognised disability moves to another country of the EU, he/she can lose access to national benefits like the possibility to have free use of public transport or at a reduced price.

According to the United Nations, there are different populations that can suffer similar risks as they are exposed to the negative effects of the city, caused by the atmosphere and humans themselves. However, their vulnerability will depend on their socioeconomic conditions, their civic and social prestige, and their access to mitigation and support resources. Currently, there are many projects at a local level that are trying to create better urban and road safety.

The network of local projects can create a trend and influence other European cities.



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Notable and sustained drop in juvenile crime in Australia

young offenders in AustraliaThe Australian Institute of Criminology has published the results of a research project carried out by Payne, Brown and Broadhurst about the criminal career of the generations born in 1984 and 1994. It involved finding out what influence criminal trends during a person’s first years of life had. 1984 was a year when the crime rate was consistently increasing, whereas 1994 saw a downward trend. The study focused on the population in the state of New South Wales, which, furthermore, is the most populated in the country. The generation of 1984 consisted of 83,328 persons and that of 1994, of 89,373.

The results were very clear. The percentage of people under 21 that have committed some type of crime fell from 9.5% to 4.8%. If we separate them into different crime typologies, we find that:

  • Violent crime fell from 2.6% to 1.8% (a 42% drop).
  • Crimes against property fell from 3.8% to 1.7%.
  • Crimes against public health (drugs) fell from 1.7% to 1.3%.
  • Cases of affray fell from 3.3% to 1.9%.

In overall numbers, young people (-21) of the 1984 generation committed 7,900 crimes, whereas those of the 1994 generation committed 4,341.

The study divides criminals into occasional criminals (1 crime), moderates (between 2 and 4 crimes) and chronic cases (5 or more). In this case, the comparison shows that for the 94 generation the relative importance of chronic criminals is bigger. While in the case of the 84 generation chronic criminals committed 23.1% of all crimes, the percentage among the 94 generation was 31.5%. Therefore, although they are less in the first group (1.5% as opposed to 2.2%), they are much more prolific criminals.

Regarding the reasons underlying this reduction in youth crime, the study points out the following:

  • The improvement in security for both private and public property (security measures and the design of buildings and vehicles).
  • The increase in wealth in New South Wales, which has improved its inhabitants’ standard of living.
  • The reduction in time that minors spend in the street without any form of supervision (online activities at home are stated as one of the causes, but that could lead to other types of network-related crime).
  • The reduction in the number of youths that casually get involved in a criminal career.


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The long road towards modernising crime statistics (2)

Last week we published a post about the new classification of crimes proposed in the USA. Here we are going to reveal the main conclusions and proposals of the second report that has been published, in 2018, by the same group of experts about the system to quantify crime.

The new classification entails a change in the concept of ‘crime’ that is not based on people’s behaviour patterns rather than a legal definition. The objective is that, whatever the source used to gather the information, similar incidents are assigned the same category. For example, refraining from considering an incident to be ‘sexual assault’ in the survey (due to the conduct it motivates) and ‘sexual abuse’ in police data (because of the legal definition that regulates it). With this objective, the new inventory considerably increases the amount of categories and gathers facts that were previously not quantified.

Accordingly, a fundamental step towards discovering the differences between the incidents that are recorded in current statistics (both in police records and crime surveys) and the new classification: the typologies incorporated in some cases correspond to emerging factors, and in other cases it involves categories that are only now included in statistical data although they were already considered to be serious problems (such as acts against the environment or animals).

The proposal presented by the group does not consist of the creation of a system to gather and analyse completely new data; alternatively, it promotes the improvement and modification of current systems (both regarding police data and those from surveys), in order to adapt it the collection of data in the new categories. It also foresees the incorporation of sources of complementary information, especially for the added categories to the new classification and for those that may encounter difficulties when obtaining data.

Moreover, they remind us that neither can all sources of information gather the same data, nor is the same information about the crimes necessary. Accordingly, the system also has to be flexible to adapt to these differences.

The biggest emphasis is placed on the system for gathering police data, as it has evolved less over recent years than surveys, which have gone through more continuous processes of review and improvement. For the evolution towards the new system to be viable, the report proposes steady implementation of improvements as soon as possible, when minimum levels are achieved, and to continue perfecting these until an optimum level is reached.

The present system’s biggest drawback is that neither the FBI nor the BJS (Bureau of Justice Statistics have a leading role in the gathering of data and their responsibilities are diluted. Consequently, there is no clear alignment regarding their sets of data. The authors demand that there be some nature of organism to provide this leadership and recommend that the Bureau should be responsible for the budget and for institutional management to explore and decide how coordination should be put into practice, and be responsible for this joint management, and also for the future review of the classification system.

To sum up, the intention is to go from a system that counts known crimes, principally based on crimes reported, to a system that gathers information about crime, with the intention that the statistical system allows for data analysis from different points of view (geographical, demographical, sociological and economic) and aims to provide more information than simply counting the number of criminal offences committed.

The complete reports can be consulted at:

Modernizing Crime Statistics

Report 1: Defining and Classifying Crime (2016)

Report 2: New Systems for Measuring Crime (2018)


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The long road towards modernising crime statistics (1)

One of the problems to be resolved in the world of security is how to know and assess factors that cause insecurity, especially crimes. The principal tools available (police statistics and security surveys) are complementary and have advantages and drawbacks, and it is complicated to combine the results obtained with each of these.

Academics and professionals from the United States debated, between December 2013 and January 2017, how to modernise systems and instruments to measure crime in their country. The assignment came from two offices of the Department of Justice, the FBI and Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and had to cover three areas:

  • A substantial one: to develop a new way of classifying crime;
  • A methodological one: to propose a system for gathering data, and
  • One to be implemented: to recommend a way to carry out the gathering of data.

The first report presented by this group of experts was published in May 2016 and responded to the first of these areas, the classification of criminal acts. The objective was to have a joint vision of criminal typologies, based on, among other sources, police and survey data.

The current classification system is based on criteria established between 1929 and 1930, and its main feature is to gather few crimes that are regulated in a similar way all over the USA. Therefore, although it is a pragmatic and useful classification, it is also too rigid and strict, and one of the aims of the new system of classification is for it to provide a framework that allows for the incorporation of new crime types that may appear in the future.

The new classification is done with statistical objectives and its intention is that any crime can fit into some category, but only in one. The definitions of the classification highlight behaviour patterns, without any wish for these to necessarily correspond to crime typologies. Although the focus of the classification is related to penal offences, analysis made of incidents will also be kept in mind, and may include more than one crime or relate to one or more victims or one or more authors.

As well as reviewing the current system, historical precedents and the needs of the different users of crime statistics, they have also analysed other experiences when modernising statistics. Among these, the International Classification of Crime Statistics (ICCS) is stressed, approved by the United Nations in 2015 and established as an international standard that has been adopted as a reference framework incorporating modifications to take the country’s own reality into consideration (such as incidents with firearms).

Therefore, the new classification proposed contained 11 first tier (more generic) categories that, with some minor differences, correspond to those of the de ICCS:

  1. Acts that cause death or try to cause death
  2. Acts that cause damage or try to cause damage
  3. Offensive acts of a sexual nature
  4. Property-related acts of violence or threats of violence against persons
  5. Acts that only infringe upon property
  6. Acts related to controlled substances[1]
  7. Acts related to fraud, swindling or corruption
  8. Acts against public order and authority
  9. Acts against national security
  10. Acts against the environment or animals
  11. Other non-classified criminal acts in other categories

This first level of categories is then subdivided, in more or less detail, until it reaches a maximum of four levels (X.X.X.X), with which 189 different categories are achieved (the ICCS has as many as 230 categories).

The classification is accompanied by attributes or labels that facilitate further exploitation and even a posterior reclassification. These attributes are related to the incident or to the different offences, victims or authors related to the incident.

Next week we will complement the information with the result of the second report, published in March 2018, which proposes the system for gathering data and how to implement it.

The complete report can be consulted at:

Modernizing Crime Statistics

Report 1: Defining and Classifying Crime (2016)

[1] This includes narcotic drugs and substances prohibited or regulated by laws, as well as their precursors.


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Important drop in violence in Colombia: some keys to such a success

Colombia has witnessed an important reduction in violence and a real drop in homicide over the last 25 years.

Events such as the fall of Pablo Escobar in 1993 and the Cali cartel in 1995 allowed for the suppression of the violence meted out by dangerous gangs. The demobilisation of armed paramilitary groups has also been a factor.

Moreover, Colombia opted for a new focus: violence as a public health problem. Prevention is articulated based on the creation of public services and not the use of police repression. The mayors of the cities of Cali, Bogota and Medellin were inspired by the exploitation of data and methods aimed at research that were widely used by healthcare professionals.

The successful experience in three cities


In 2002, the mayor Rodrigo Guerrero highlighted the problem of violence as an epidemic, and tried to map out the outbreak of violence and how this is transmitted via the exploitation of data.

The gathering of data related to homicides and the specific places where these were committed facilitated the elaboration of crime maps. The reprisals of the cartel and territorial conflicts did not completely explain the increase in the homicide rate, very high in certain places and at certain times: payday weekends and early hours of Saturday and Sunday morning near nightclubs. The study of the data suggested that the excessive consumption of alcohol and the availability of firearms had mortal consequences.

A noteworthy 35% drop in homicides in neighbourhoods was possible thanks to the prohibition to carry firearms on payday weekends and restricting the sale of alcohol.


Colombia’s second city led an urban project known as “urban acupuncture” that, based on an urbanistic design, aims to solve social problems. In a poor neighbourhood, a cable car was installed. This measure was very important because it provided residents with mobility, so that they could find work and feel more integrated in the city. There was also an investment in basic services, especially in schools and libraries. Improvements in education and mobility contributed to a reduction in homicides, from the world record of 380 homicides per 100,000 people in the 90s to 20 homicides in 2015.


The capital also applied measures inspired by public healthcare policies. They improved or destroyed areas that had become the focus of criminal activity, and investment was made in public areas that encouraged a feeling of belonging and positive inclusion among its residents. One of its mayors, Antanas Mokus, tried to change behavioural norms with programmes and campaigns that stressed mutual respect and the importance of life. The homicide rate fell from 80 homicides per 100,000 in 1993 to 16.7 per 100,000 in 2018.

The successful experiences of Cali, Bogota and Medellin were possible thanks to the vision of their political leaders. The modification of the Colombian constitution in 1991 transferred more power to local authorities, which could be more creative and experiment. At the end of the 2000 decade, leadership of these local policies inspired changes in the country’s policies: the data revolution had reached the highest levels of governmental policy.

The lessons learned

The perspective of public healthcare to administer crime has a great potential. The involvement of researchers, healthcare professionals and social workers allowed for new ways of addressing an old problem.

The urban area influences criminal patterns and a better urbanistic design stimulates an improvement in behaviour; investment in infrastructures can transform social problems.

Reforms in police organisations: the fight against corruption, enabling the police to exploit data, a focus on the dynamic of local crime and intensifying community collaboration were key to reducing crime in Colombia.


Links of interest

“Treating violence like a disease helped cut Colombia’s murder rate by 82%. Public health approaches could save hundreds of thousands of lives” by Edward Siddons


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Europol joins forces with private corporations to construct a cybernetic space

La corporació BT –btplc.comThe BT Corporation –, one of the largest IT security companies in the world– has signed an agreement memorandum with Europol to share knowledge of threats and cybernetic attacks. In this way, the two organisations reinforce their efforts to create a cybernetic space aimed at citizens, companies and governments, by exchanging intelligence, detecting threats and protecting data.

From the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), it is believed that the understanding between Europol and the BT Company will improve capacities and increase effectiveness in the prevention, persecution and interruption of cybernetic crime. Labour cooperation of this kind between Europol and industry is the most efficient way to guarantee a cyberspace for citizens and European companies.

The memorandum feels that cross-border cooperation is the key to stopping the worldwide cybercrime epidemic. They think that cybernetic security intelligence, experience and practice must be better shared in order to help to show and take measures against organised gangs of criminals in the dark corners of the network.

At the start of this year, the first telecommunications supplier in the world began to operate in order to start to share information about malicious programming and websites with Internet suppliers via an online portal, the Malware Information Exchange Platform(PSIM). Since the launching of the platform, the BT worldwide team, with over 2,500 cybernetic security experts, have had collaboration to identify and share 200,000 malicious web domains. The recipients of the threat-related intelligence from BT have the capacity to adopt specific measures against specific identified threats.

Europol created the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) in 2013 to strengthen the response with the application of the cybernetic crime law in the European Union. There is also a Joint Task force Action Taskforce (J-CAT) in operation, which aims to boost intelligence and coordinated action against the main threats and cybercrime objectives to facilitate identification, priorities, preparation and the initiation of investigations and cross-border operations for its members.


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2050 scenario: no deaths on US roads

The road to zeroTraffic accidents were, in 2015, the tenth cause of death in the world, according to the World Health Organisation. It is therefore a global problem that many countries are trying to respond to. In the USA, researchers from the Rand Corporation published a study that is set in 2050 and imagines what has been the first year without deaths on the road in this country.

The starting point is the current situation, when over 100 Americans die in their vehicle in traffic accidents every day. It is a problem that has a major effect on young people between the ages of 15 and 24, men and people who live in rural areas. Moreover, over the decades, there has been a continual drop in the number of deaths on the roads (the figure fell by 11,300 people between 1985 and 2011), in recent years a considerable rise has been detected: in 2016 5,000 more people died in traffic accidents than 2011.

The researchers imagined that they were living in 2050 and that it was the first year without a death on the road, thanks to four factors. The first was that almost all vehicles had some kind of atomisation or driving support mechanism. Secondly, that the roads were designed to reduce speed where safety is deficient. Thirdly, the improvement in emergency warning systems and care for those injured, which would reduce deaths in accidents. The last was that, as there were fewer accidents, US citizens would increasingly regard traffic accidents as unacceptable.

To get to this scenario, between 2018 and 2050 it would be necessary to implement measures focused on three areas.

  • Double the efforts and investment in programmes and policies that have been shown to be effective. These policies are seen within a wider concept, from changes in regulations to changes in infrastructures or improvements in highway education.
  • Speed up the most advanced technological changes. Support systems and driver assistance are more and more habitual with new vehicles and, gradually, the age of automatic driving is approaching. Agreements between car manufacturers and developers and suppliers of technology, as well as other actors, will be key in this area.
  • Prioritising safety. It is necessary for Americans to adopt a new culture of safety, based on awareness, education and constant enhancement, both in the individual and collective context. With this new safety system, all divers would be aware that any one of them at some time, indeed inevitably, might make a mistake and cause an accident. This premise would lead to an improvement in all areas of the road system (roads, vehicles, drivers, emergency services), so that when there is such a mistake, the consequences will not be fatal.


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North American universities will build a database on the subject of shootings at school

After the Kentucky high school shooting in January 2018, which has then been followed by an even more lethal one in Florida, a project has been launched to create a national database of such incidents. It is financed by the National Institute of Justice and will be carried out by three universities: the John Jay College of New York, the University of Texas in Dallas and the State University of Michigan. The director of the project is the teacher Joshua Freilich, who belongs to the first of the institutions mentioned. The resulting database will have to include not only those incidents that result in death, but those involving wounded victims and suicidal acts within the school context.

Despite the significant expense invested in studies into school violence since 2012 (currently reduced by President Trump), until now one of the main problems to articulate preventive policies has been the lack of empiric data concerning school violence in the United States. It is absolutely necessary to work on and gather objectively data regarding all incidents in this way in order to analyse the contexts involved and identify profiles and risk factors.

The database will include known shootings at schools from 1990 until 31st December 2016, as long as there has been at least one person wounded. The objectives are:

  • To document the nature of the problem and clarify what type of shooting incidents have taken place at schools.
  • To build a complete profile of the authors and propose causative indicators to assess if the individual incidents or the mass ones are comparable.
  • To compare incidents with and without mortalities in order to try to identify actions that could be used to reduce the damage caused by shootings.The database will be published in spring 2019, and it is expected to provide fundamental knowledge of the reasons that facilitate such incidents, as well as offer an assessment of strategies used to increase security at schools.


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